Iowa needs more Damond Powell
Damond Powell was leaning back against a wall on the afternoon of Sept. 21, sporting a tie and collared shirt. He was surrounded by a dozen reporters who were peppering him with questions about his most recent addition to his career highlight reel.
Powell was smiling as he answered each question, and why not? He and his team had just obliterated Western Michigan, 59-3. He contributed with a 29-yard touchdown catch (his first as a Hawkeye) from Jake Rudock in the third quarter. He led all of Iowa’s receivers with 83 yards through the air.
You wouldn’t know it by watching this year’s Iowa football team, but Powell is supposed to be the next big, bad Hawkeye receiver. He’s been touted as a walking highlight reel. He stands at a mere 5-11, 180 pounds but causes gigantic complications for opposing defenses.
Only one problem with all of this hype: Iowa fans have barely seen any of it.
Powell first flashed his skill and speed at the annual Kids Day at Kinnick Stadium. Each of Iowa’s three quarterbacks took turns tossing him the ball, allowing the junior-college transfer to work his magic and woo the crowd.
Powell spent that afternoon making nearly everybody miss. He took passes on crossing routes and shot straight through the Iowa secondary. He took a hand off on an end-around and nearly broke one player’s ankles. Powell used juke moves that we only see in video games. I even thought to myself, How the heck did Iowa land this guy?
Since then, Powell has been virtually absent. He’s hauled in just three catches to this point in the season, and two of them came on Sept. 21. Against both Missouri State and Iowa State, Powell didn’t catch anything.
It’s easy to point to the transition when trying to find an explanation for why Powell hasn’t been used more. He transferred from a community college in Utah to a Big Ten town. He had to learn a brand-new playbook. He had to adjust to a brand-new offense.
All signs point to Powell being ready to play more, though. Teammates and coaches constantly rave about his speed and playmaking ability during practices. On Sept. 21, when Rudock zipped his 29-yard touchdown pass to Powell, he was five yards clear of his defender. The dude is fast. Period.
Moreover, each time Powell catches the ball, it’s usually on a deep play. He averages 44 yards a grab. His 54-yard catch from C.J. Beathard during garbage time on Sept. 21 was a career long for him — it was also Iowa’s longest play from scrimmage this season.
This isn’t out of the normal for him, either. Powell averaged 30 yards a reception last season at Snow Community College. A quick YouTube search of Powell’s highlight tapes from back when he was at Snow shows he really does outrun everybody; that he doesn’t drop anything; that even with his size, he’s still tough as nails. He makes people miss. He makes plays.
He’s the big-play guy that Iowa football coach Kirk Ferentz has been looking for. Now that he has him, it’s time to use him. A lot.
When Powell was answering questions after the game Sept. 21, he said he was excited about finally finding the end zone, that he couldn’t describe it in any other way other than saying that he was excited. He and his teammates all said Powell should be put to more use as Iowa transitions into Big Ten play.
As reporters continued to ask about his transition and practices and other things, I thought something different. I asked him what his favorite route was. When he catches the ball, what does he prefer to run?
“The fly route,” he said, grinning wide.
You heard the man, Ferentz. Now let him run, and throw him the ball.
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